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This alternative medicine primer briefly summarizes alternative, complementary, or energy-based therapies relevant to spinal cord dysfunction, including spinal cord injury (SCI), multiple sclerosis (MS), and post-polio syndrome, that have been discussed more extensively elsewhere in this web site. Included below are summaries on the following therapies: acupuncture, qigong, scalp acupuncture, laserpuncture, laser acupuncture hand therapy, Ayurvedic medicine, craniosacral therapy, chronologically controlled developmental therapy, herbal remedies, nutritional approaches, aromatherapy, plant essences, homeopathy, magnetic therapy, energy fields, and Edgar Cayce approaches. In addition to these, checkout other therapies.

Although modern medicine’s many contributions have greatly benefited people with spinal Swiftness1989oil.jpg (149537 bytes)cord dysfunction, it also has a down side that inordinately affects them. Examples include:

bulletAnnually, 106,000 people die from adverse drug reactions in hospitals, making it the nation’s fourth to sixth leading cause of death. Painkillers alone, which people with spinal cord dysfunction often rely on, hospitalize over 76,000 people each year due to gastrointestinal complications.
bulletAlmost two-million people who enter hospitals in this country get infections that they did not have when they went there. Of these, 80,000 die.
bulletAccording to a National Academy of Sciences’ report, medical mistakes kill 44,000 to 98,000 people annually.

These statistics are especially relevant to people with spinal cord dysfunction, who are often prone to overmedication, life-threatening infections, and more hospitalization. Clearly, such statistics warrant a serious consideration of alternative therapies, such as those summarized in this article.

Although many of these therapies are not supported by rigorously designed scientific studies, one must note that the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment has concluded that only 10-20% of medical interventions physicians practice are scientifically proven. Most conventional, as well as alternative, medicine is based on a history of use and experience. The results of modern science’s carefully designed clinical trials are only a small fraction of our healthcare reality.

All topics summarized below are discussed more thoroughly in the articles posted elsewhere on this web site.


ACUPUNCTURE: Traditional Chinese Medicine believes that a life-force energy called qi permeates all living things through channels called meridians. Good health requires an ample and flowing supply of qi. When qi is consistently diminished, out of balance, or polluted, sickness ensues; its absence means death.

Acupuncture has considerable potential for treating health problems, such as chronic pain, commonly affecting individuals with paralysis, and may restore some function. Under traditional theory, traumatic paraplegia is the consequence of damages in the important Du or Governor meridian. These damages, in turn, affect the yang qi energy of the entire body. Acupuncture’s goal is to clear and activate meridian channels, reversing qi stagnation.

In conjunction with a National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Conference, Margaret Naeser, Ph.D., Lic.Ac., Boston University School of Medicine, summarized studies treating CNS paralysis with acupuncture. One study reported that 95% of treated individuals with SCI had some improvement, such as improved sensation, bowel and bladder function, spasms, and walking. Ideally, patients should be treated as soon as possible after injury. For MS, studies suggest that acupuncture can improve muscle spasms, vision, sleep, sexual functioning, and bladder control.

QIGONG:  With physical disability, qi can stagnate and become unbalanced, increasing the likelihood of illness. Hence, it is important to stimulate qi flow through various methods such as qigong, a healing exercise that encompasses gentle movement, breathing, and meditative practices. With slight adjustments, it is possible to practice most of these practices from standing, seated or, even lying down positions, and, with or without arm movement. As such, qigong is an ideal activity for those with spinal cord dysfunction.

According to qigong master and author Kenneth Cohen (personal communication), “One cannot always expect a cure from qigong, but one can always expect some healing,” defining a cure as a “measurable physiological change and healing as improved quality of life, happiness, and self-understanding.” With this perspective, although physiological changes may be modest, improvements to quality of life may be profound.

Many with spinal cord dysfunction have accrued significant benefit from qigong-related practices. For example, Roberta Trieschmann, Ph.D., past Vice President, American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine, uses qigong-related practices to improve the overall health and functioning of people with physical disabilities. For example, through these practices, an incomplete quadriplegic was able reduce his devastating central cord pain; and a woman legally blind due to MS was able to improve her sight enough to drive and read.

“Both of these individuals were massively depressed by their circumstances and had lost all hope that life could be better for them,” Treischmann states. “Yet by understanding the role of energy in their life and changing the methods of managing their energy, they have been able to produce change in their function at the physical level even though a myriad of physicians could offer no hope for any improvement in their condition.” 

SCALP ACUPUNCTURE: Scalp acupuncture is a specialized form of acupuncture that has helped many people with nervous-system disorders, including SCI and MS. A leading force behind the therapy is Professor Ming Qing Zhu, who operates clinics in San Jose and Santa Cruz, California. Procedurally, very fine needles are inserted into the thin layer of scalp tissue in treatment zones associated with specific body functions and regions. To stimulate qi flow, the needles are periodically manipulated and often left in for extended periods.

Patients, including those with paralysis, are encouraged to move the affected body parts, using as necessary assistive devices or the help of others, or, at minimum, to visualize the movement accompanied with qigong-based breathing practices that help direct the qi flow to the intended area. This movement is critical in improving connections between the central and peripheral nervous system.

Scalp acupuncture almost invariably reduces MS symptom severity. Because so many people have been treated, a specific MS protocol has been developed for use by other acupuncturists. In the case of SCI, although treatment is usually initiated long after the acute injury phase, the most optimal therapeutic window, most patients have accrued significant quality-of-life-enhancing health benefits.

LASERPUNCTURE:  This therapy was developed by Albert Bohbot, who operates a clinic located about 120 miles south of Paris (Chateau Gaillard, Montlinard). With this therapy, an infrared laser beam is directed toward various acupuncture points located on the patient’s torso. These sessions are augmented with more traditional physical rehabilitation therapy designed to enhanced restored function.

Laserpuncture combines elements of both acupuncture and laser therapy, each of which have shown potential for restoring function after SCI. Bohbot has refined the methodology, provided some unique technical contributions, and developed paradigm-expanding explanations for how it works.  Central to the therapy is an acupunctural network that relate energy meridians to dermatome levels, which match specific spinal cord levels with given areas of skin feeling.  He believes that stimulating energy flow through this network can restore some function. In some cases, dramatic improvement has been observed.

LASER ACUPUNCTURE HAND THERAPY:  Studies indicate 30 – 73% of manual wheelchair users will experience carpel tunnel syndrome (CTS).  Margaret Naeser,  Ph.D., Lic.Ac. has developed an effective alternative therapy for not only CTS but the spasticity-related hand-flexion problems often associated with CNS disorders. This therapy specifically stimulates hand acupuncture points with a low-energy laser beam and a mild electrical current, and can be readily performed at home with some upfront guidance by a licensed acupuncturist. It uses 1) a red-beam-emitting laser pointer powered by two AAA batteries and 2) microamps transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (specifically, a MicroStim 100 TENS device).

Rigorously designed clinical studies indicate that approximately 90% of treated individuals with mild-moderate CTS will have significant, enduring relief from CTS pain. In the case of spasticity-related hand-flexion difficulties, such as the fisted or clawed hand, the hand relaxes, the fingers open up more, and existing dexterity improves.

AYURVEDA: India’s ancient holistic medicine Ayurveda attempts to keep one healthy and disease free. Ayurveda’s focus is wellness and the prevention of disease, including the chronic health problems that frequently afflict individuals with spinal cord dysfunction.

Paralysis results in considerable physiological and metabolic shifts.  From an Ayurvedic perspective, these shifts increase the divergence between your current mix of vata-pitta-and-kapha doshic energies (i.e., vikruti) and your born-with doshic-energy ideal (i.e., prakruti). If this imbalance is not corrected, toxins (called ama) will accumulate, clogging the body’s channels and, in turn, causing disease. Hence, those with paralysis need to be especially vigilant in their efforts to regain a good doshic balance through food consumption and life-style behaviors.

Certain spices are recommended for clearing channels of ama after any sort of injury. including turmeric, black pepper, ginger, coriander, fennel, and licorice. Maharishi Ayur-Ved Products (Colorado Springs, CO) markets a multi-herbal product called “ReGen – Nerve,” which contains the neuronal-health-promoting herb Mimosa pudica (i.e., the sensitive or touch-me-not plant). In rats with sciatic nerve injury (a nerve running through the pelvis and upper leg), regeneration was 30-40% higher in the animals treated with the Mimosa pudica extract.

The results of a self-report, pilot study carried out by the author suggest that the ReGen – Nerve product exerts a variety of subtle effects in subjects with spinal cord dysfunction (e.g., reduced spasticity).


CRANIOSACRAL THERAPY: Developed by John Upledger, D.O., (Upledger Institute, Palm Beach Gardens, FL), craniosacral therapy is a gentle hands-on procedure for evaluating and enhancing the functioning of the craniosacral system. Because the system surrounds the brain and spinal cord, it affects the entire body and, as such, the therapy has the ability to treat a wide-range of disorders, including SCI. Therapists use a light touch to feel the rhythmic motion of the cerebrospinal fluid within the craniosacral system and, in turn, to treat any restrictions. Because a restriction in one area can affect the entire system, treatment may involve working at a point distant from the overt symptoms.

Many treated patients with SCI report improvements, ranging from modest to fairly dramatic, involving motor function, bowel and bladder control, spasticity management, and overall well-being and ease. 

CHRONOLOGICAL CONTROLLED DEVELOPMENTAL THERAPY (CCDT): Developed by Ed Snapp, a physical therapist who acquired polio in his youth, CCDT targets various neurological disorders, including post polio syndrome, SCI, head injury, cerebral palsy and developmental disorders.  It consists of a number of fairly standard physical therapies performed in a defined sequence, including pressure stimulation, hydrotherapy, light-touch massage, movements on an oil table, and rest in a sling apparatus that mimics a fetal position.  The therapies are done to the patient, who exerts no effort, and carried out in a distraction-free environment.

Under CCDT theory, turning on dormant neurons requires a sequence of cues that mimic events from our early fetal and infant development, which, in turn, reflect a genetic memory of our evolutionary development.  If a fully developed neuron has been turned off, its reactivation requires that it receive and sense external cues in a defined sequence that are correlated to the neuron’s initial development. There is no avenue to deliver these cues except through the peripheral senses. Out-of-sequence cues will not work.


HERBAL REMEDIES: By helping to maintain health, to treat disability-aggravated ailments, and to reduce exposure to drug side effects, people with spinal cord dysfunction can benefit greatly from herbal medicine. Furthermore, the use of infection-fighting herbal remedies that enhance the body’s inherent healing potential will help preserve the future effectiveness of life-saving antibiotics, a cornerstone of their healthcare.

Many herbs specifically support and nourish the nervous system. For example, ginkgo biloba may potentially help people with MS and, as discussed above, Mimosa pudica possesses nerve regenerative potential.

In addition, Feather Jones, Rocky Mountain Center for Botanical Studies (Boulder, CO) director has suggested that several other nerve-nourishing herbs may potentially help in spinal cord dysfunction (personal communication). For example, she has indicated that a fresh plant extract of skullcap (a member of the mint family) reduces nerve inflammation; a tincture of milky oats (i.e., immature oat seeds) can rebuild the neuronal myelin sheath that is often damaged in both MS and SCI; an external liniment of Cow Parsnip, (a common weed that is a member of the parsley family) is a traditional Southwestern Hispanic remedy for treating injured nerves and stimulating regeneration; external application of St. John’s Wort can treat neural inflammation; and hawthorn helps to hold collagen fibers in place along the spinal cord.

NUTRITION: There are many nutritional approaches that can enhance the wellness of individuals with spinal cord dysfunction. For example, consuming cranberry (also blueberry) products are a traditional folk remedy for fighting urinary tract infections (UTI’s), a serious recurring health problem for individuals with spinal cord dysfunction. In addition to acidifying urine, cranberries contain substances that inhibit bacteria from attaching to the bladder lining and, as such, promote the flushing out of bacteria with the urine stream, including in individuals with spinal cord dysfunction. Studies suggest that D-mannose, a naturally occurring sugar, (marketed as MannoplexTM by Progressive Laboratories, Irving, TX ) is even 10 times more effective than cranberries in dislodging E. coli bacteria, the primary UTI culprit, from the bladder wall, and can ameliorate over 90% of UTI’s in 24-48 hours.

In another example, a recent double-blind, crossover study demonstrated that creatine supplementation, a popular mechanism for building muscle mass and strength, increased the exercise and respiratory capability in individuals with complete cervical level spinal cord injuries.

ESSENTIAL OILS & AROMATHERAPY: Aromatherapy or essential oil therapy is a natural, gentle treatment that often can be used as an alternative to the many conventional pharmaceutical medications that people with spinal cord dysfunction frequently rely upon. In addition to enhancing overall wellness, it has the potential to alleviate specific paralysis-associated health problems.  For example, Aromatic Thymes magazine published a case study in which aromatherapy was used to enhance the health of a quadriplegic in the acute injury phase.   Specifically, essential oils were used to prevent respiratory infections, promote mucus clearing, fight depression, and promote sleep.

FLOWER ESSENCES: Flower essences are sun-infused solutions that possess the flowers’ subtle vibrational energy imprint. Like other natural alternatives, they expand the healing armamentarium available to people with spinal cord dysfunction.

Although little focus has been placed on the therapy’s healing potential relevant to spinal cord dysfunction, Machelle Small Wright, Perelandra flower essence creator, believes that essences have tremendous potential for treating spinal cord injury.  Because a traumatic injury profoundly disturbs the body’s energetic patterns, flower essences, which stabilize these patterns, has healing potential.  In an educational video, she notes “I would love to get essences in on spinal cord injuries.” “This is the thing I think that would take spinal cord injury right over the top because now you’ve got an electrical pattern that’s going to be addressing the very base of your electrical operation; the nerve center. And I think when you’re talking about regeneration and you put that electrical system on, it will regenerate.”

In an audio resource, Wright establishes a flower-essence regimen for a woman with MS.  As the woman continued her regimen over time, her MS symptoms gradually and permanently disappeared. 

Other resources also allude to essences that have relevance to spinal cord dysfunction. Although flower essences’ molecule-independent, energy mechanisms are troublesome for mainstream scientists, Jeffrey Cram, Ph.D., Sierra Health Institute, has shown in controlled studies that popular combination flower-essence remedies can, indeed, exert measurable physiological effects.


HOMEOPATHY: Homeopathy is another alternative that can help individuals with spinal cord dysfunction enhance their overall wellness, reduce their heavy medication burden, and preserve life-saving antibiotic effectiveness. Basically, with homeopathy, substances that cause symptoms of illness in a healthy person can be used in exceedingly low doses to cure similar symptoms when they result from illness.

To obtain the most effective remedies for spinal-cord-injury-related disorders, one should see a professional homeopath. However, if this is not feasible, according to Dana Ullman, M.P.H., Homeopathic Educational Services (Berkeley, CA), one may benefit from occasionally taking several doses of Hypericum (30X or 30C). Prepared from St. John’s wort, Hypericum can potentially help nerve-related injuries, including acute and chronic SCI or conditions aggravated as a result of SCI. Other homeopathic remedies that may help for SCI include Arnica, Cocculus, Natrum sulph, Aurum metallium, Heleborus, Aconitum, and a combination remedy called Traumeel. Ideally, homeopaths believe that emergency medical technicians should administer homeopathic medicines at the accident scene to minimize injury.

Although little formal research has been carried out on SCI, Dr. Edward Chapman, Boston’s Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, has demonstrated that homeopathy significantly lessens the symptoms and improves the functioning of individuals with mild chronic head injury, suggesting that the therapy could also help for SCI.

MAGNETIC THERAPY: Paralysis aggravates many ailments amenable to magnetic therapy. For example, studies have shown that the therapy is effective in controlling pain, enhancing circulation, promoting wound healing, and reducing carpal tunnel syndrome.

A double-blind clinical study has shown that small, low-intensity magnets can greatly reduce the pain associated with over-use injuries or joint and muscle inactivity in individuals with post-polio syndrome. Studies suggest that magnetic fields can also MS symptoms. For example, pulsed electromagnetic fields can ease pain and spasticity and improve bladder control, cognitive function, fatigue level, mobility and vision in people with MS.

Restored function has been reported in individuals with SCI using ferrite-ring magnets of various sizes. Animal studies indicate that pulsed electromagnetic fields stimulate both peripheral and spinal cord neuronal regeneration, as well as functional recovery. Magnetic fields can potentially influence 1) calcium influx through the neuronal cell membrane, which affects essential cellular functions; and 2) levels of key nerve growth factors, which affect regeneration, 3) stem cell differentiation, and the physical matrix of the tissue scar that forms after SCI in a way that is less inhibitory to neuronal re-growth.

HUMAN ENERGY FIELDS: According to Sherrie Pae, Barbara Brennan School of Healing, spinal cord injury affects energy flow through the body because of the cord’s proximity to the body’s power column or pranic tube, and the energy received by the base and sacral chakras is substantially reduced.

The effects of the injury are stored in the etheric field, which is closest to the body. This field contains the template or blueprint for the physical body, duplicating every cell and organ. As such, the etheric field is responsible for the growth, development, and repair of the physical body. If the etheric template is distorted, its physical product, the body, will also be distorted in some sense. If energy workers can mend the etheric field’s dysfunctional energy vectors after injury, physiological healing will be facilitated.

EDGAR CAYCE: America’s most famous medical intuitive provided thousands of readings on diverse health disorders, including MS and SCI.  Most have been transcribed and are available to the public through the Association of Research and Enlightenment (Virginia Beach, VA).

Cayce believed MS’s main cause was the lack of gold. As such, his primary therapy for the disorder involved administering gold vibrational energy through two electrotherapy devices, the wet cell battery and radial appliance. With these devices, the energy flow was routed through a jar containing a gold chloride solution, where gold’s vibrational energy was picked up and then directed to the body. The Meridian Institute (Virginia Beach, VA) has carried out a small pilot study suggesting that Cayce’s healing protocol improves health and reduces MS symptoms.

Cayce provided readings for relatively few people with SCI, basically because most people with serious injuries often did not live very long in his lifetime. His SCI recommendations also emphasized the use of gold vibrational energy.


There are many alternative, complementary, energy-based healing modalities that can help individuals with spinal cord dysfunction. Not only do they have the capability to help a variety of secondary conditions associated with such a disability, they have the ability in some people, for certain injuries or level of dysfunction, to restore function, sometimes dramatically.

Keep posted on new therapies, treatments, potential cures, and developments!

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